[This is the text of a speech I made yesterday at meeting of my synagogue to offer prayers for peace, and support for Israel]
Dear friends – thank you. Thank you for coming to show your support and love for the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
I shouldn’t be here tonight. I should be in Israel with my wife visiting our son who lives in Tel Aviv, and our family across Israel. But President Obama tried a little BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) of his own, and our flight was cancelled. So it is beshert that I am here to address you this evening. Im yirtzeh hashem we shall be flying out in the near future.
I want to tell what I and my wife have been doing for the last few weeks every waking moment available to us.
My wife with her phone, I with my iPad have followed every heartbreak, every attack on Israel and the Jewish people, every act of unspeakable evil and every act of unimaginable bravery.
We wept with the families of the fallen, we woke every morning wondering how many more of our beautiful young boys were gone, and how many more families would lose a son, a husband, father a brother.
We watched in awe as 30,000 people braved sirens and rockets to attend the levaya (funeral) of a lone soldier who had no family in Israel. I followed on Twitter calls for people to attend shiva houses (of mourning) of the fallen chayalim bodedim – lone soldiers. It was truly amazing to see. Many of the people I follow on Twitter in Israel actually attended these funerals.
This is Israel. This is the Israel we know and love.
And all through these long weeks we have been phoning relatives in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Netanya, Gan Yavne, Kiryat Ono to ask how they are coping. Did they have to run to a shelter? Are they OK?
You know at that this time more than 2500 rockets have been fired into Israel from Eilat in the South to Rosh Hanikrah in the North. In the last decade at least 12,000 have been fired at Israel.
For weeks, we have sat wondering to ourselves: will our son be called up as a reservist. Would he have to fight? So far, he has not baruch hashem, thank G-d. Very few of us here are completely unaffected by events in Israel; I’m sure many of you have children or grandchildren, relatives and friends in Israel.
I downloaded an app called Red Alert. Every time a rocket is fired into Israel it will sound an alarm that you can configure – you can chose whether it is a wailing siren or a woman saying ‘Tzeva adom tzeva adom’ – Red alert. This so freaked out my wife as my iPad was telling us every few minutes that a rocket was fired at somewhere in Israel that I had to change the noise to be like an email alert. Each time my wife asked – where was that one? Was it Tel Aviv? Was anyone hurt?
This is how we have lived these last few weeks – can you imagine what it is like over there? I’m sure some of you have been and can tell us your own experiences.
We have had to face the surreal knowledge that in a few days we would be entering a war zone ourselves.
As someone who for years now has been involved in hasbara and has used social media to counter lies and distortions and to get the truth about Israel out there, I have been just one of an international network of people who are active on Twitter, on blogs, Facebook and even on the Television and radio here in the UK, Israel, the United States and across the world.
So, what have I learned, then, these last few weeks. Here are some highlights and lowlights.
Well, guess what! Those who say anti-zionism is not anti-semitism have been shown to be seriously deluded. Although criticism of the policies of the Israeli government is a perfectly legitimate exercise, and one mostly performed in Israel itself, the vast majority of anti-Israel bashing is clearly antisemitic.
In France a traumatised Jewish community numbering more than 350,000 has been subjected to what can only be called pogroms. After a so-called pro-Palestinian demo in Paris, congregants in a shul – ironically called ‘de la Roquette’ – were besieged by a baying mob of stone-throwing and knife-wielding Muslims. Only the police saved them from a lynching. Nine synagogues in France have been attacked, even fire bombed. Jewish shops and businesses burned to the ground. Hundreds of French Jews have made aliyah (emigrated) to Israel, where one said he would rather sit in a bomb shelter in Tel Aviv than walk on a street in Paris wearing a kippah.
On Facebook they created a page with the photos and names of French Jews so that they can be attacked. In Paris a Jew was recognised and attacked by fifteen thugs as people looked on.
In Belfast the shul had its windows smashed – twice.
In Manchester, after the pro-Palestinian rally, a convoy of Blackburn Muslims, who had probably never spoken to a Jew in their life, terrorised Jews in Broughton Park, throwing eggs and insults and shouting ‘Heil Hitler’. Indeed, Hitler’s popularity is at its highest for about 70 years.
On Shabbos, a member of this congregation told us how the Kedem shop in King Street has been besieged for a week, and he urged all of us to support the pro-Israel contingent against an aggressive mob of hardline left-wing activists and Muslims who had tried to block the entrance to the shop and had terrorised staff.
In London and Paris, in Berlin and in Belgium and Holland and even in Cardiff violent pro-Palestinian demonstrators held banners which compared Israel and the Jews to the Nazis, called for ‘death to the Jews’, or chanted ‘Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas’ and other unspeakable horrors, unchallenged by police, or the public. The Hamas, Hizbollah and ISIS flags were freely carried without hindrance. In Bradford and Preston the Town Halls took down the Union Flag, our national flag, and raised the Palestinian in an act of solidarity; something they failed to do for the thousands of Palestinians killed in Syria for the last three years.
In Paris, those ever ready to associate Zionism with Nazism gleefully made the antisemitic quenelle salute, a version of the Nazi salute, and called for another Holocaust – the one they all deny ever happened, of course; yet it is Israelis who are the Nazis?
A Turkish shop in Liège in Belgium bore a sign in the window saying ‘Dogs are welcome, but not Jews’.
The Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayib Erdogan said what the Israelis are doing in Gaza is 100 times worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews.
And the United States is not immune with violent rallies against Israel across the country, even in Miami.
Meanwhile, in the UK the Liberal Democrat MP, David Ward, tweeted ‘Ich bin ein Palestinian’ and that if he were in Gaza, would he fire a rocket? yes, I probably would, he said. In other words, he would be prepared to commit a war crime by firing a rocket indiscriminately at Israeli civilians, presumably as form of ‘collective punishment’.
After a storm of protests on Twitter, in which I took part, his colleague, ex MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, stood up for Mr Ward and called the Board of Deputies (so that includes me) a ‘ frightful bag of disputatious Jews’ .
Talking of ‘frightful bags’, on BBC Newsnight that evening, Baroness Jenny Tonge thought Israelis are so despicable that she would also be prepared to commit a war crime against Israel were she to be in Gaza. This is the same woman who once said she could empathise with suicide bombers.
The media and social media talk endlessly of ‘proportionality’ without the slightest idea of the actual definition of this term in international law, in the hope that, it seems, more Israelis will be killed to satisfy their desire for some obscene arithmetic idea of ‘fair play’, as if war were a Sunday afternoon cricket match, not about justice and righteousness or self-preservation in the face of a pathological and suicidal enemy.
Without the Iron Dome, can you imagine how many more Gazans would have died, let alone Israelis. I say that because without the Iron Dome Israel would have to have acted with far, far greater force.
Yet they mock the rockets as harmless homemade fireworks – even though many are provided by Iran – in order to accuse Israel of disproportionality. Because Israel protects its citizens with this technology, they expect Israel to sit back and just allow rockets to rain down on them because, unlike any other nation, they don’t believe Israel has a right to protect itself. And these rockets can, and have killed, and wrought destruction, fear and trauma especially to young children. And, if they are so harmless, how come airlines decided it was too dangerous to land at Ben Gurion?
And yet these same pedlars of semantic mendacity are not concerned that in Syria 170,000 people have died, including thousands in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, Millions are refugees. Did you see any demos in London or Paris about that?
In Iraq, the most evil gang of criminals since the Nazis, ISIS or ISIL, or whatever acronym of evil they now use, are trying to outdo them, killing thousands, ending 1800 years of Christian life in Mosul in Iraq, spreading terror, destroying mosques and churches and precious historical artifacts, the tombs of saints and prophets. And all in the name of the same god that inspires Hamas and their criminal allies. Where are the mass demonstrations? Where are pogroms against Muslims? Where the outrage? Where are the Methodists? Where the Quakers? All we get is a shrug and a soon-forgotten op-ed in one of the dailies.
Yet, if the State of Israel dares to defend itself against a decade during which barely a day has passed without a rocket, an attempted infiltration to kidnap or murder, or a mortar attack against a school bus, the UNHRC ( a mockery of the words ‘human’ and ‘rights’ but definitely ‘united’ against one state – Israel) the UNHRC, a bunch of gangster states that would make the Mafia blush, is falling over itself to launch a war crimes investigation, whilst completely ignoring the Hamas rockets and terror. There have been 32 UNHRC resolutions, 26 of them against Israel and no more than one or even none at all for Syria, Sudan, Russia, China, Nigeria, Mexico, Sri Lanka or Iran.
Ironically, in the 2014 UN Human Development index, Israel came 19th. France was 20th. Not one of Israel’s neighbours came in the top 50, and the ‘State of Palestine’ has a higher index than most other Arab or even Muslim states. So much for genocide..
This is the world we live in.
But it is at times like this when we should take great pride in Israel which shines like a beacon of hope and goodness; yet much of the world is blind to it. Their ignorance of history, their political ideologies, their religion, yes, their prejudice and culturally acceptable thinly-disguised antisemitism, fuels hatred, violence and death, stoked by the media, politicians, and the Internet.
Israelis, and we who support them, we who have morals and scruples, we who abhor death and embrace life, are forced to witness death and destruction and human suffering visited on the people of Gaza, who are as much the victims of Hamas terror – maybe more so – as the people of Israel.
We take no joy or satisfaction in the death of a single innocent, yet they cheer and jeer the death of an Israeli soldier or a civilian, whilst their apologists toss ancient blood libels at Jews like the sweets the Palestinians hand out to their children to celebrate their cult of death.
Today the famous words of Prime Minister Golda Meir are still true: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”
They use their people as human shields, preventing them from leaving their homes when Israel warns of imminent attack, physically intimidating and beating them so that they will be killed to provide a photo-op for the gullible press, who would rather believe the representative of a terror organisation than a member of the Israeli government.
They hide weapons in schools, mosques and hospitals, they booby trap homes and fire from those same homes and from protected buildings.
But Jeremy Bowen ‘sees no evidence of human shields’.
Did you know that 5 years ago Hamas itself and other observers revealed that 160 children, who they used to build the tunnels, were killed in those tunnels? Yet it is Israel and the Jews that are the child-killers, the baby murderers.
I’m sure many of you would have seen the graphics on social media and heard the words of Bibi Netanyahu – ‘we protect our civilians with our missiles, they protect their missiles with their civilians’.
$100m at least spent on several kilometres of terror tunnels, and not a single bomb shelter in Gaza, except the ones in the basements of hospitals where their cowardly leaders hide. Did you know that Hamas have a command centre in an office next to the emergency room in Shifa hospital?
Another aspect of the anti-Israel hatred, which for so long has permeated the media, is the corruption of the language of the Holocaust and our national suffering, referring to Gaza as a ‘concentration camp’ or the ‘Warsaw ghetto’. The Arab population of both Gaza and the Territories has grown steadily, yet Israel is committing ‘genocide’ a word never used in reference to Syria or Iraq.
Even our own political leaders, even Jewish ones, have characterised Gaza in terms of the Holocaust; Gaza where life expectancy is higher than parts of Glasgow.
Meanwhile, Israel sends through its crossings hundreds of truckloads of medical equipment and aid every single week, and even the cement used to build the terror tunnels. Whilst at other crossings, hundreds of Palestinians are taken for free medical care to the Rambam hospital in Haifa or the Soroka in Beersheva – even wounded terrorists!
This is Israel.
Only Israel would build a field hospital to treat the civilians of their enemy, and only Israel would have it shelled deliberately by that same enemy, who try to prevent their own people from using it.
Only Israel would have utility workers ready to risk their lives to repair pylons and infrastructure damaged by their enemy so that the innocent could watch Hamas TV courtesy of an Israeli technician, and so that terrorists could continue to use that same power for their malign purposes. Electricity which, by the way, Israel provides for free, anyway.
This is Israel.
Dear friends, sometimes I feel that the darkness is closing in on us. We are relatively safe here in the UK, but it can change quickly. Who would have thought that the 1930’s would return in the second decade of the 21st century. My mother a’h used to tell me that she was often told to ‘Go back to Palestine’ now they are telling Israelis to ‘go back to Poland’.
Yet, this is not the 1930’s. Today we have, b’h the State of Israel and every pogrom, every UN resolution, every rocket, every attack on a Jew proves how necessary it is for us to have our own state where we can be the masters of our own destiny. By attacking Israel and calling for its destruction and the murder of every Jew, they strengthen our will and our determination to survive and prosper as a people and to be a light unto the nations.
They spew hate, we generate love. They tear down, we build. They bring death and destruction, we bring life, medical breakthroughs, technology to feed the world. Israel sends water technologists to Africa, rescue and medical teams to Haiti and Japan when disasters strike. Israelis and Jews win Nobel prizes ‘disproportionately’ to their numbers.
The lovers of death are the absolute antithesis of what we are as a people.
So my message to you tonight is this: stand firm and stand tall and proud of what we are and what we do. Support Israel. Buy Israeli goods, go to Israel for a holiday, tell your colleagues about Israeli achievements. Tell them what they don’t see on the TV or hear on the radio or read in the newspapers. Learn history. Read about Israel. Arm yourself with knowledge, and don’t believe the lies and distortions fed to you by the BBC or SKY News. Write to the media. Write to your MP. Sign petitions. Respond to calls for action from the Board of Deputies or the Rep Council.
Let me finish with a final story from my online life.
Today, one of the biggest heroes in Israel is the Colonel of the Golani Brigade, which has taken many casualties in Gaza. He led his men from the front rather than from a luxury hotel in Qatar. He was wounded and hospitalised. He begged the doctors to allow him to go back and lead his men. He did just that with the scars still livid on his handsome face. He is a lion of Israel. His name is Ghassan Alian. He is not a Jew, but a Druze.
This is Israel.
Kol haKavod lo. May Hashem bless all the good works of his hands and those of his men and all the IDF.
Am Yisrael Chai